Customer service culture built, not born

As we roll into another year that promises unprecedented change in the utility industry, consider giving your organization a gift that can smooth the way forward: great customer service.

In a recent article in Intelligent Utility You are leaving Western's site., authors Patty Cruz and Rebecca Shiflea analyze practices at companies known for outstanding customer service and offer 10 steps utilities can take to cultivate a successful customer service culture:

  • 1. Engage leadership – Organizational philosophy starts at the top. Utility executives must communicate that everyone and every job exists to support delivering electricity to customers and community.
  • 2. Engage customers – The expectations customers have about utility services are changing. Use different avenues of outreach—public meetings, social media, focus groups, etc.—to learn about those expectations and design products and services to meet your customers’ needs.
  • 3. Hire the right people – With an aging workforce, utilities are likely to be doing a lot of recruiting and hiring during the next several years. Consider this an opportunity to look for candidates who have not only the right skills for the job, but also the right attitude to support a customer service culture.
  • 4. Cultural alignment – Improving the customer experience must be the responsibility of everyone in the organization, not just the customer service department. The structure, policies and procedures should also support those goals. Rigid policies can be a barrier to good customer service.
  • 5. Educate and train – Employee orientation is the place to start telling new hires what great service looks like at the utility. Explain how the interests of each employee are tied to the overall organization and how both benefit from improving service. Don’t limit training to new employees, either. Companies that are known for having the best customer service make training a continuous process.
  • 6. Retain the best – Make providing great service fun and rewarding. Even employees who do not directly interact with customers should understand how their work ultimately affects customers. Build a work environment that engages and motivates employees to improve performance, and your utility will attract and retain superior talent.
  • 7. Empower your employees – Provide customer-facing employees with a framework—the outcome should be favorable for the customer, not hurt the utility (e.g., financially, legally) and enhance the relationship between the organization and the customer—and let them explore innovative service solutions.
  • 8. Communicate service success – Recognizing and sharing employee accomplishments when they deliver exceptional customer service reinforces its importance to the organization. Examples of excellent customer service should be communicated both internally and externally.
  • 9. Reward and recognize excellent customer service – You get more of the behavior you reward, so develop ways to recognize and reward specific employees for their good service behaviors. When you conduct surveys on customer satisfaction and the quality of service, share the results with all employees so that everyone knows of the results and receives recognition for what is going well.
  • 10. Create and track metrics – The act of measuring can create a sense of competition in employees, and even encourage them to compete with their own records. Setting goals and measuring performance also provides the ability to hold individuals, groups and an entire organization accountable for the resulting success or failure.

Read the full article for more insights and examples of how utilities have improved their customer service programs. Happy New Year, and may all your customers be satisfied.

Source: Intelligent Utility, 12/11/15